Facing Time: Elder sibling woes

March 31, 2024, 4:35 p.m.

Facing Time is a column that chronicles non-romantic, personal connections to people, places and things. It focuses on how the passage of time and being a student at Stanford influences not just physical relations (like those between our siblings, family and friends) but also the nonphysical (like the relationships we have with ourselves, our goals and our perception of concepts)

My sister and I have never bonded more than we did the summer after I graduated high school. With only a two-year age gap, we did everything together. Growing up, my friends were her friends, my clothes became her clothes and my favorite ice cream flavor  — mango — was hers. Twelve-year-old me had found her “copycatting” slightly unnerving, but there was comfort in the fact that she trusted me even when I wasn’t confident enough to trust myself.  

The last two years of high school had distanced us. I spent most of my time locked away in my room buried in schoolwork and essays, turning down spontaneous shopping trips and movie nights, trading hours of late-night conversations for time behind my computer screen. So when senior summer fell and I had nothing but time, I attempted to make up for all the hours we had lost.

Afternoons were spent lazing under the sun in our backyard, blabbering until our popsicles dripped or our mom called us in for dinner. It was fun to fantasize about what the next stage of our lives would look like with me living in a dorm and Megha now the only child at home. “I heard West coast people are nicer,” I’d say as we hypothesized about the new personalities that would enter my life, from roommates to friends and professors. “Amma said she’s only going to let us eat out when you visit,” she’d frown, complaining about how life at home would never be the same. 

We frequented trips to thrift stores and caught up on Bollywood movies. I spent time testing out new recipes with my Megha as the self-appointed taste-tester. The end of August came quickly. Before we knew it we were on our last trip to the Jersey Shore, being whisked by the salty breeze as we watched the horizon burst into fiery wisps. 

I never thought about how college would change things until it did. Every time I fly home, It’s hard to miss what time has taken from us, its subtle theft evident in mundane details. It’s seen in the way her once long, frizzy hair now ends at her shoulders in perfect curls. The physical change is temporary, but it’s rooted in lasting internal metamorphosis.  It’s seen in the way she doesn’t default to sitting in my room anymore or asking for advice as often as she used to. My old clothes are no longer her wardrobe. She’s discovered her style is “different.” Were we always different? 

I don’t think I missed her until I came home and knew she had changed, until I knew she was no longer the immature, soft-spoken girl who followed everything I did without a second thought. 

When did the universe decide that she could grow up too? Slam doors, lock herself in her room like I used to and ditch hiking with me to hang out with her friends. 

She reminded me of the lemon tree I had begged my mom to buy when I started high school. For years, I had taken care of it meticulously, watering it every day, and housing it indoors during the harsh winters. It grew slowly, but there was never a lemon in sight. Then one afternoon during spring of freshman year my dad called to tell me it had finally borne fruit. Turns out it was a lime tree. I hadn’t been there to see it. It’s those moments when you realize nothing will ever be the same. My sister had blossomed and I had missed the blooming.

It’s funny how nobody ever warns you that as you’re cursing chemistry problem sets or stressing out about summer internships, your loved ones are growing, becoming different people — without you. When you’ve lived with them for so long it’s hard to notice the maturing — the slight shifts in thought, or changes in perspective brought about by daily experiences — because it happens too close, because when you are together in time, it does not matter. But distance changes that. 

It’s disconcerting how I’ll miss the subtle shifts. Each time she changes a mannerism, or her style or her hair, I’ll be reminded of the temporal gap between us. We will probably never cohabit long enough to seamlessly adapt to these alterations again.  Every interaction will feel like a recounting — an exchange rather than a shared experience. 

When I see Megha again during breaks or summers, everything will be stark, obvious like the harsh outlines in a coloring book that I will be left to fill in, my perception of her existence shaped by what she chooses to tell me. But, as my art teacher used to tell me, “there are no harsh outlines in nature.” It will never feel natural. 

This summer is supposed to be her best summer — the summer after she graduates high school. I’ll be on campus. Our time will be limited to the week or two I spend at home. It won’t be nearly enough time to lay in the grass, rewatch our favorite soap operas, or hunt for the best thrift find. But maybe that’s a good thing. We’ll have to be more intentional. 

Our worlds will shift again when she goes to college next year. Who knows if our breaks will align or how often we’ll see each other. Whenever we reunite, we’ll scramble to bridge the intervals, pouring ourselves into each other until one of us has to leave again, forever chasing after time that was never truly ours.

Shreya Komar '26 is an editor for Arts & Life and writes for The Grind and mental health beat. She adores sunrises, oil painting, and orange-flavored dark chocolate. If she's not writing or daydreaming, she's probably trying to adopt another plant.

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